Teacher workload

Hello all!

After reading the interesting paper “Effective Workload Management Strategies for the Online Environment” of Dr. Lawrence Ragan (Director of the Faculty Development World Campus, Penn State University (
http://www.personal.psu.edu/lcr1), I decided to ask him the following question:

It’s important in an online course that students study at their own pace, but how can an online teacher manage his time when there are many students in an online class? For example, when the teacher set up a discussion forum and all students should participate, or when many of them become frustrated with the course’s difficulties, what can the teacher do not to delay other teaching responsibilities?

The answer of Dr. Lawrence Ragan was:

My answer comes from my training and experience of course, in instructional design. Understanding the dynamics of the online course (number of participants, type of course content, level of learners, grad vs. undergrad, etc...) all influence how we construct and design the online course. I think that the term "asynchronous learning" can be misleading.

Yes, the students can learn at their own pace but usually within a tightly controlled timeframe. For example, a 15 week 3 credit course has to be completed in that time period. Students are not free to be working on week 2 assignment during week 10. I'm not sure we always do a very good job explaining this aspect to the students. Although there are online courses that are independent learning where the student is free to progress or not at their own pace, most online courses that I see being developed and delviered are cohort-based.

To the issue of faculty time management in the online course, my answer would be the same. We must design a course that is "reasonable" for the learner AND the instructor. There are tradeoffs of course, more students may equal less student-to-faculty interactions. BUT, there are also other strategies that we can use that engage the learners that do not require additional faculty oversight.

I see these issues and challenges as the "fun" of our field. It is where we get to bring the artistry of teaching to the pragmatic constraints we deal with the operating parameters.


Second Life construction tutorial

Considering that I'm a newbie in Second Life, I find these tutorials very useful. It's for those who need some help with constructing avatars or random objects.


Teaching online techniques: learning object

Here is a newspaper about online teaching techniques, in particular the use of forums and role-playing, that I've done in a group work within the curricular unit PPEL.


ISSUU - You publish

What's ISSUU? Watch this video to know it.

If you want a more complete video about how to upload documents to ISSUU, just follow this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLVN4K7Nx0o.


Online teacher workload - annotated bibliography

“Reducing the Online Instructor’s Workload: Tips on designing and administering online courses can save faculty valuable time while producing high-quality content”

Sheridan, Rick, in Educause Quartely, number 3, 2006, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm06311.pdf (3 pages)

Many hours are dedicated to design and administrate an online course, even more when a few changes in the content or format are required later. So there’s a need to reduce faculty workload. The author is an experienced online teacher that discusses in this paper the way teacher and students might save time on online courses, by making them easy to administrate through, for example, a discussion forum or a reference section with links to health-related sites. This teacher is aware too of the advantages and disadvantages of online learning, and concludes that “a well-designed and well-managed online course could save an instructor a quarter of the time normally devoted to teaching in a traditional classroom”.

“Faculty self-study research project: examining the online workload”

Thompson Melody M. (The Pennsylvania State University) JALN Volume 8, Issue 3 — June 2004, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://www.educause.edu/Resources/FacultySelfStudyResearchProjec/153176 (15 pages)

This paper describes a project in which six faculty members teaching courses through the Penn State World Campus conducted studies of the comparative workload in the online environment. Results of the studies indicated that faculty workload for teaching these online courses, as measured by time on task, was comparable to or somewhat less than that for face-to-face courses.

Some conclusions are:

“Achieving the goal of high levels of interaction is often accomplished by implementing tools and strategies that impose a higher workload on faculty.”
“Workload in the online environment is a variable dependent on a number of factors, many of which are amenable to intervention by either the course designer or the faculty member.”
“A model of small faculty research studies, whether supported by an external grant or by institutional research funds, represents an effective and easily replicable approach to examining and addressing the challenges and opportunities of online teaching and learning.”

“Effective Workload Management Strategies for the Online Environment”

Ragan, Lawrence C.; Terheggen, Sara L., (The Pennsylvania State University World Campus)
April 15, 2003, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/pdf/fac/workload_strat.pdf (44 pages)

The workload management strategies discussed in this paper related to the success of an online teaching program are based in four categories: Authoring Strategies, Teaching Strategies, Course Improvement and Revision Strategies, and Institutional Strategies. The aim is to collect and catalog a variety of feedback from experienced online educators in how they reduce the amount of time and energy in the online environment, so online teachers can benefit from this expertise.

Some of the most effective strategies for reducing faculty workload online teaching are, for example, clarifying and enhancing students’ technical skills before registration, providing a detailed syllabus, defining the operating parameters of the course, creating feedback rubrics, establishing a routine.

Much time and energy are required to design, develop, and deliver online course instruction and many educational institutions are now establishing systems and services to support student and faculty use of electronic communications. The adoption of online technologies may resolve issues surrounding the perception of unmanageable workloads, and consequently improve the educational process. The authors believe that “careful application of the strategies above to the needs of online educators can significantly enhance the success of the online education program a work in progress”.



It seems that online education can be expected to grow over the next decade or so as more and more universities offer it for more and more classes. There is no doubt that it enjoys a degree of novelty and excitement and provides a different experience for many participants. The above studies measure the amount of time instructors and students dedicate to courses, and raise important issues for development and delivery online courses, for university administrations in introducing online classes, for the academics who may push for or be called upon to teach them, and for the students who will take them. The authors consider too how technology can be expected to continue to develop and new problems will continue to arise.

Just like the physical classroom, there is considerable time involved in grading, updating web pages and responding to students. Even updating may be easy, there is some time involved in the set-up of online classes. We learned that these classes meet for a specified amount of time in the online environment, and students are given a wide variety of group and individual work to complete outside of class. A key problem in facilitating a successful online course is the highly time-consuming nature of the administrative and pedagogical tasks involved.

In order to help their students succeed in class, online teachers begin to understand that technology has improved and may contribute to handling the workload of an online class. So, organization and time management are the keys to reduce online workload.


Assignments in online education - annotated bibliography

“Assessing group assignments”

In website of the Deakin University - Institute of Teaching and Learning, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from

“Assessing group assignments poses some challenges. For students who are more familiar with being assessed as individuals, the prospect of their grades being reliant on other students can be daunting. The information provided here has been developed as part of a suite of topics relating to Group assignments. As with all assessment, it is important that there is a logical alignment of learning objectives, learning tasks and assessment criteria.”

“Integrating Online Assignments into Your Course”

In website of the University of Waterloo - Centre for Teaching Excellence, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://cte.uwaterloo.ca/teaching_resources/teaching_tips/tips_icts/integrating_online_assignments_into_courses.pdf (3 pages)

Some options and decision-making criteria for using online assignments in a course are outlined in this article with the purpose to help the teacher to integrate web 2.0 tools in a meaningful way with the rest of his course. The author defend that technology can be used to put almost any assignment online. The key is to have a clear pedagogical reason for using it.

For example, “beyond encouraging participation from reluctant students, online assignments can have a multi-modal design (i.e., graphics, text, audio, virtual hands-on activities) and, if designed appropriately, can also help students reach new learning levels or think more deeply or critically about a given concept.”

And “online assignments also allow for an archive to be created of relevant course information and discussions. This information can be used by students at a later date while studying for a test/exam, or by the instructor to create a Frequently Asked Questions page or to measure students’ understanding of key concepts.”

“Teaching On-line: Not Just Another Teaching Assignment!”

Roger, Hiemstra: PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning, Vol. 11, 2002, 1-9, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://www.coe.iup.edu/ace/PAACE%20Journal%20PDF/PDF2002/Hiemstra2002.pdf (9 pages)

“Of the various computer-based technologies, computer-mediated conversations (known hereafter as CMC) seem the most promising and most used technique for on-line teaching (Berge & Collins, 1995). CMC provides opportunities for electronic, asynchronous communication, real-time chatting, the delivery of instructional materials, and student-to-student and student-to-teacher electronic interactions. It is a format that provides considerable flexibility in the way instruction is conceived, delivered, and utilized.
What do you need to know to be successful with on-line teaching? It really is not just another teaching assignment, venue, or location. Converting a current course or developing a new one for an on-line format takes careful planning, good instructional design, and a thorough understanding of the various techniques that make it work.” (Hiemstra Roger)

“Interactive Assignments for Online Students

Lowry, Pam (Veraldi Instructional Technology Resource Center, Lawrence Technological), retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://www.iiisci.org/Journal/CV$/sci/pdfs/ZE275ME.pdf (4 pages)

This paper summarizes the faculty member’s instructional strategies involved when creating student interaction assignments. The paper also summarizes the assignments, discussion board, and trends in education from the student’s perspective.

“As the course interactive assignments were being designed and developed, it was important to keep in mind my teaching styles and my student’s learning styles. I was very conscious of this because research on learning styles and how students receive and process information should be included when instructors design courses. It is also important to include experimental activities which involve the use of reflective exercises (Western 2005). While implementing assignments for the course, I tried to keep in mind auditory, tactile, and visual learners. Since an auditory learner is an independent learner, some activities included completing some independent work as well as some teaching strategies including lecturing, discussion, verbal questioning and verbal sharing.” (Pam Lowry)

Some conclusions are:

The instructor needs to reply more on nonverbal communication cues and employ active listening skills.

Instructors can pose additional questions for clarification and summarize what is said to ensure accurate information exchange.

Utilizing synchronous technology, teacher is able to understand student’s verbal response to the content, the assignments, and to respond to their needs.

Interaction between faculty and students can take place virtually.


A well designed assignment is an excellent teaching tool and can help students develop research skills, critical thinking skills and subjective knowledge. Assignments are more challenging to grade because of the unique way each student may interpret the instructions. Therefore, the assignments require detailed expectations and elaborate rubrics. For example, providing an optional discussion forum for students to ask questions about each assignment of teacher and classmates may provide some formative feedback and reduce confusion for students. Additionally, even those who never poste to the study hall discussions benefit from the examples, instructions, and questions posted there.
Problems associated with traditional assignment management approaches contribute significantly to assignment turnaround time while much of the process of performing assessment is mechanical, repetitious and a perfect candidate for the application of information technology. It is the combination of these factors that is driving interest in online assignment management systems by many educators and institutions throughout the world.

Online teaching techniques - annotated bibliography

“An Exploratory Study into the Efficacy of Learning Objects”
Farha, Nicholas W. (2009): “An Exploratory Study into the Efficacy of Learning Objects”, The Journal of Educators Online, Volume 6, Number 1, Indiana State University, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from
http://www.thejeo.com/Archives/Volume6Number2/FarhaPaper.pdf (32 pages).

This research is a contribute to investigate the effectiveness of learning objects on instructional technology, by comparing learning outcomes using a learning object with outcomes using a traditional textbook-based method of instruction.

According to the author, a learning object is “a subject matter-specific learning resource or item of content, generally understood to be digital and multimedia-based, which can be reused and–in some cases–combined with other learning objects to form larger pieces of instruction”.

Some conclusions are that learning objects are compatible with the continuously growing world of web-based distance education; that the digital nature of learning objects makes them easily deliverable via the Internet, which lends itself well to the distance education paradigm; and that professional development is an important component in the successful implementation of this instructional technology.

“Student Perceptions of Technology-Based Teaching Methods”

Kline, Jennifer., Van Gundy, Karen. and Liu, Hope (2003): "Student Perceptions of Technology-Based Teaching Methods", Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Atlanta Hilton Hotel, Atlanta, GA, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from

Some data from undergraduate students are examined to see their perceptions of technology use in the classroom. Multivariate quantitative analyses are conducted as to consider student
perceptions about the effectiveness of instructional technology while accounting for differences in math and computer anxiety levels at the beginning and end of the course instruction period.

The present study is based on data collected in fall 2002 for a quasi-experiment conducted in
three undergraduate sociology classes at the University of New Hampshire. Two of the classes were sections of the same introductory statistics course, and the other class was a course titled "Drugs and Society."

The results obtained with this methodology were:

“Qualitative results from the open-ended responses collected thus far show that students express mixed feelings over the use of technology in the classroom. Reactions ranged from overtly negative to enthusiastically positive.”

“Respondent comments suggest that a technology disparity on campuses may occur between residential students and commuters. While residential students have ready access to the latest university systems compatible technology, commuters can be at a disadvantage.”

“Another aspect that emerged from open-ended questions was a sense of alienation that may develop from relying on technology. Some students prefer face-to-face interaction with the teacher and fellow students and, if they aren’t technologically savvy, may fall behind in the course without one-on-one explanation and instruction. Moreover, as one student noted, more introverted students who are unwilling to ask questions or participate in class discussions are enabled to rely on communicating via technology and may be less likely to develop communication skills.”

“Helpful Hints on Effective Online Teaching: Managing the Online Classroom”

In webpage of De Oracle @ UMUC, Online Learning Magazine for UMUC Faculty – Center for Support of Instruction, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from

UMUC faculty share their best practices, strategies and techniques by presenting suggestions in its website. This time the discussions with seasoned faculty members are about the success for effective online teaching, the approaches for carrying the momentum generated at the beginning of the class throughout the duration of the semester.
The main themes are study groups strategies, effective communication, constructive feedback and managing the online classroom.

“Online Teaching and Learning: Faculty Reflections”

Paper presented by Wines, Joan (California Lutheran University), Bianchi, Julius (California Lutheran University) at the ELEVENTH INTERNATIONAL WORLD WIDE WEB CONFERENCE, retrieved on November 18, 2009, from

This paper is based on faculty perceptions of technology's potential for improving teaching and learning in their courses. After developing 29 online projects at CLU, the authors conducted post-project evaluations and interviews to determine faculty impressions of the projects' effects.

Some conclusions are that delivering course content online prompted teachers to improve their teaching strategies (improved teaching) and by posting online examples of students work, many students begun to self-critique their work after comparing with the samples (improved learning). Teachers can display and discuss the work in class, and students who follow the discussion are engaged because they have had to respond to the same assignment.


I think that the development of learning communities online necessitates the formation of collaborative learning teams who should create online education programs that include efficient teaching and learning through computer mediated communication (CMC). To do so, quality interactive communication must be fostered and developed through the facilitator of the course – the online teacher aware of technological formats.adapted to pedagogical principles of teaching and learning.

Web 2.0 potencial learning applications

Unit 2 - Activity 1: Online teaching techniques

This slideshare shows how web 2.0 tools may have potencial learning applications on online education.

Alternative Assessment Using Web-based Tools

Unit 2 - Activity 1: Online teaching techniques

To see if creating assignments in online education is enough, I propose this video (retrieved Novenber 20, 2009) where some questions are discussed, such as:

a) Are the papers and exams the best way to measure student learning for your course?

b) Are students integrating your content into their personal knowledge bases in a meaningful and useful way?

c) Do students find your assessments interesting and engaging?


Strategies for Managing the Online Workload

One of the foremost concerns of online instructors is that teaching online requires more time than the traditional face-to-face classroom setting. The Strategies for Managing the Online Workload (SMOW) video podcast (retrieved November 20, 2009) offers a collection of short descriptions, tips, techniques, and methods developed and used by experienced online educators to manage their time more effectively in the online teaching environment.

Here’s a video introduction to the podcast by Larry Regan, Director of Instructional Design and Development, Penn State University World Campus:

Web 2.0 tools and distance education

Answering what is suggested in Unit 2 - Activity 1: Online teaching techniques, I propose the following:
Though I will present later some annotated bibliography about the adoption of Web 2.0 tools in distance education by defining theories and models which have different construct that effect the online teaching techniques, I decided first to gather several sites about educational utilization of Web 2.0 tools, from the point of importance of interaction for distance education.
The most common tools of Web 2.0 include blog, wiki, podcast and social network. Technology plays a key role especially for promoting interaction, delivering education and providing communication between teachers-students and students-students. Interaction in distance education is not limited to audio and video, or solely to teacher-student interactions, it must also represents the connectivity, the students’ feel with the distance teacher, aides, peers etc., otherwise without interaction students become autonomous, isolated and procrastinates and drops out (Sherry, 1996).

As a matter of fact, emerging technologies and changing pedagogies bring out the necessity for more effective two way communication, promoting interaction and collaborative working, sharing and flexible participation.

Web 2.0 Teaching Tools

«This site lists Web 2.0 websites and webtools have potential for use college and university teaching. »

LINK: http://web20teach.blogspot.com/


«We are a group of curious teachers who explore and brainstorm ways to integrate Web 2.0 technologies into our teaching. Some of us meet face-to-face at an independent school in St. Petersburg, Florida. The rest of us are from all over the world.»

LINK: http://teachweb2.wikispaces.com/

Top 25 Web 2.0 Apps to Improve a Student's or Professor's Productivity

«Being productive and getting things done both rely on planning and being organized. But with the hustle and bustle of courses, it's sometimes easy to forget what you have to do and when. So here are 25 Web 2.0 applications (mostly free) that should help you on your quest as a student or professor in being productive.
The idea is that these applications will in some way increase productivity and/or reduce time taken for specific tasks. Thus, some companies are more heavily represented because their products are designed for productivity.»

LINK: http://oedb.org/library/beginning-online-learning/top-25-web20-productivity-apps

Useful Web 2.0 Tools

«This powerpoint is a short collaboration of three Web 2.0 tools I think would be successful when implemented in a classroom environment.»

LINK: http://www.slideshare.net/jgarabedian11746/useful-web-20-tools

Web 2.0 and New Media Tools for Organization and Planning

«Many students with learning disabilities have difficulty with executive function – organizing, planning, keeping track of time, remembering information and keeping track of multiple tasks can all present difficulties for students with LD. Typically, individuals who struggle with executive function use a variety of strategies to help with organization and planning; students may use agenda books and calendars, to-do lists, organizers or detailed checklists for tasks and assignments. »

LINK: http://www.inclusiveschools.org/Web_%2526_New_Media_Tools


Transparency in Cooperative Learning

This video aims to be a brief presentation on Cooperative Learning and how this theory may support transparency as a cooperative resource.

Cooperative learning is a successful theory, regarding efforts of the group as a benefit to all group members. Knowledge is supported on a mutual performance no one can do anything alone, students succeed individually if the group succeed.

[This video was made in a group work (Maria Lurdes and I) to answer the Activity 2 - Unit 1 within the curricular unit Processos Pedagógicos em Elearning.]


Affinity Groups in Self-paced Online Learning

Affinity group:
“as a sympathy marked by community of interest”.
(Webster dictionary)

Terry Anderson has an entry in his blog “Virtual Canuk”, on February 25, 2006, entitled Affinity Groups in Self-paced Online Learning, where he says that affinity groups popularized in informal learning may be an inspiration for developing, supporting and consequently measuring the impact of social support in educational context. He believes that “online affinity group provides a useful model that we can use and support to increase participation in and successful completion of self-paced, formal online courses.” The article aims to expose the way how self-paced learning can be too a mechanism to explore and develop that “sympathy” with others.

After examining the literature on collaborative and cooperative learning, he sees that affinity groups are both pedagogically useful and generally appreciated by learners. However, he says that members of affinity groups share interest and expectation to be working cooperatively on a common task, which doesn’t mean they seek for socialization. Affinity groups should be allowed to flow across tasks, activities and structures of the complete learning experience. So, he warns that learning designers need to create meaningful activities that respect learners’ limited resource of time.

Finally, Anderson argues that some organizational interventions must be taken (he suggests several in the article), because affinity groups may not “suddenly and spontaneously emerge from education models and systems based upon independent study assumptions.”

Considering that formal learning in any environment is complicated, the author concludes that only through systematic investigation of the variables discussed in the article, using a variety of methodologies, “will we begin to find proven ways to create, sustain and benefit from affinity groups in self-paced, networked learning”.


(retrieved October 20, 2009)


Educational benefits of social networkings

University of Minnesota researcher Christine Greenhow breaks down how her research has found that social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace can have an impact for learning and educational goals. [See the video here]

According to this researcher, students could resolve some personal problems (writting, express themselves, etc) by sharing their works or talking about their ideas on Facebook or Myspace (social networking sites). Their communication skills were improved too, because they received feedback from people ("friends they trust") with same carings and interests as them.

So, social networking might be a way to students (online education) connect each other and expand their learning skills. Since they have already the experience of being connected on Internet, they would know easily how to use technology on that path (learning situations).

Social networking

The concept of social networking is discussed in the article "Transparency in Cooperative Online Education" written by Christian Dalsgaard (Aarhus University, Denmark) and Morten Flate Paulsen (The Norwegian School of Information Technology, Norway). [Read here]

To understand better this concept, I found in Wikipedia the following explanation:

“The shape of a social network helps determine a network's usefulness to its individuals. Smaller, tighter networks can be less useful to their members than networks with lots of loose connections (weak ties) to individuals outside the main network. More open networks, with many weak ties and social connections, are more likely to introduce new ideas and opportunities to their members than closed networks with many redundant ties. In other words, a group of friends who only do things with each other already share the same knowledge and opportunities. A group of individuals with connections to other social worlds is likely to have access to a wider range of information. It is better for individual success to have connections to a variety of networks rather than many connections within a single network. Similarly, individuals can exercise influence or act as brokers within their social networks by bridging two networks that are not directly linked (called filling structural holes).”
(LINK http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network)

However, Prof. Morten concludes on the article mentioned above that, from the perspective of the theory of cooperative freedom, “social networking should be considered as a supplement to other tools. The potential of social networking lies within transparency and the ability to create awareness among students.” Maybe we should agree, in relation to learning, that people do not necessarily collaborate or communicate directly in networks. And we should have in mind that in learning communities, students’ interdependence success works well if individual participation is combined with collaborative or cooperative learning.

Then a question is asked: does networks support learning? As to answer it, some authors and their work that use concepts connected to “social networks” are cited too. Thus, we learn that this expression is still a challenge to online education investigators…


Flexibility of Online Learning

I found an interesting testemony about flexibility of online learning.

Diane was able to complete her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership because of the flexibility provided by online learning. She says that continuing education is possible due to flexibility: "if you don't go to class one day, you can go another day".

Well, is this individual flexibility too? In this case, flexibility was the main factor so Diane could return to the University to study. But I think the "individual flexibility" proposed by Prof. Morten Paulsen is more than that...

You can see the video here.

Cooperative learning: new concept

Cooperative learning is a new education concept for me.

It will be discussed on PPEL and Prof. Morten Flate Paulsen [see his page here] has written some interesting articles about it. For example, in his "Cooperative Online Education" article we read that "Cooperative learning focuses on opportunities to encourage both individual flexibility and affinity to a learning community." (page 2) I understand that the online education process should consider individual freedom and cooperation so students may achieve their learning sucess. On the other hand, being a new perspective, tutors and students still need to learn how online communities may be combined with individual freedom. Though cooperative learning is a goal to be achieved by all, I believe that the role of tutors is different from the students.

But I need to see what this means...


Dimensions of flexibility

Dimensions of flexibility - Students, communication technology and distributed education

By Ståle Angen Rye (Lecturer at the University of Agder, Norway.)

"Flexibility is a frequent topic in any discussion of higher education in general and ”alternative” forms of education, such as distributed education, in particular. The term is usually associated with change, but there has been little attempt to analyse the concept in further detail. This is surprising, since flexibility is often seen as the distinguishing attribute of this type of education. It is therefore the aim of this article to clarify the concept of flexibility by relating it to students in distributed education and their study situation. In doing so, I hope to create a platform for further research and development in the field of distributed education."


This article tries to question some contributions about the student’s role (Nylehn’s, 1996), the role of technology in distance learning (Edward’s, 1997; 2002), the relationship between distributed education and social change, because "they fail to address the concept of flexibility as such". And stands up for others, like Sayer's (2000) flexibility from a scientific-theoretical point of view, or Nylehn's (1997) concept on the basis of what it means for organisations, because "each of these approaches affords in its own way a good starting point for a better understanding of flexibility".
According to Ståle Angen Rye, one still need to clarify the concept in relation to what flexibility means for students in distributed education. And to achieve it, he analyses those contributions in the light of existing research in the field of distributed education.

"The objective is to identify different aspects of student flexibility and to highlight factors that are influential in creating this flexibility. In this way I hope to make a contribution towards clarifying what we seek to achieve when flexibility is an objective, together with the factors that serve to increase/reduce flexibility, and to say something about the consequences of flexibility."
(Ståle Angen Rye)

Some conclusions:

  • Students’ possibilities, requirements and expectations in relation to the organisation of their everyday life, and thereby their flexibility, are determined by the students’ ties both to the educational institution and to principal actors in everyday life.
  • When the educational institution sets few rules and constraints, students following distributed education will always be dependent on their everyday environment.
  • The use of technology, from the foregoing perspective, must not be considered exclusively as a dimension in the relations between the student and the educational institution.
  • It may be useful to adapt the teaching programme, including the use of technology, to students’ everyday life and context in practice.
  • Not all forms of technology are advantageous to students.

LINK: http://www.seminar.net/current-issue/dimensions-of-flexibility-students-communication-technology-and-distributed-education (18 pages)
(retrieved October 19, 2009)


Online Education / Learning Freedom

Better Education blog posted an opinion article entitled "Online Education Offers Unparalleled Learning Freedom" that remind colleges and universities are offering now many online courses for students with busy schedules and lifestyles, and there are few limits to the level of education students can receive. "The truth is that online classes offer superior flexibility to those hoping to further their education. Whether you are hoping to earn a degree or simply wish to broaden your horizons by taking a few online classes, you just might find that the possibilities are limitless once you begin taking these courses from home."

At the same time, the article clarifys that distance learning may be the best option for many working professionals if it offers flexibility (freedom).

Thus, to combine distance or online learning with other important moments of their life, students need to see that the limits in the use of time and effort invested into their studies are in their hands too.

LINK: http://www.bettereducation.info/?Codx=10616
(retrieved October 18, 2009)

Cooperative Learning

Excerpt from Biehler/Snowman, PSYCHOLOGY APPLIED TO TEACHING, 8/e, 1997, Houghton Mifflin Co. (Chapters 4 & 11).

Main topics:

- Elements of Cooperative Learning
- Does Cooperative Learning Really Work?
- Why Does Cooperative Learning Work?
- Cooperative Learning in Multicultural Education Programs
- Suggestions for Teaching in Your Classroom: Using Cooperative-Learning Methods

"Over the past twenty years different approaches to cooperative learning have been proposed by different individuals. The three most popular are those of David Johnson and Roger Johnson (Johnson et al., 1994), Robert Slavin (1994, 1995), and Shlomo Sharan and Yael Sharan (Sharan, 1995; Sharan & Sharan, 1994). To give you a general sense of what cooperative learning is like and to avoid limiting you to any one individual's approach, the following discussion is a synthesis of the main features of each approach."

The learning strategies discussed in the excerpt go from individual interaction to group goals (in face-to-face learning process). Thus, we may conclude that cooperative learning, as a positive interdependence, motivate students to help each other to overcome problems or complete whatever task has been assigned.

This synthesis conclude that cooperative learning is sufficiently flexible and it can be used at all level of education. This perception is based on books and some articles that propose and discuss cooperative methods for specific grade levels (in face-to-face learning process).

According to the publications mentioned earlier, it seems that these methods (though used in face-to-face learning situations) showed to be effective in "increasing motivation for learning and self-esteem, redirecting attributions for success and failure, fostering positive feelings toward classmates, and increasing performance on tests of comprehension, reasoning, and problem solving". I believe that all these issues should be present on online education, because one student might be sucessfull if he feels he can easily cooperate with his colleagues also (positive interdependence).

LINK: http://college.cengage.com/education/pbl/tc/coop.html#1
(retrieved October 19, 2009)


Theory of Cooperative Freedom

Professor Morten Flate Paulsen introduces his Theory of Cooperative Freedom in online education.

Morten Flate Paulsen is on the Executive Committee and Vice President of the European Distance and E-Learning Network (EDEN) and on the European Association for Distance Learning (EADL) R&D committee.

He's regional editor for IRRODL (The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning) and EURODL (The European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning). He's also on the Editorial Board of seminar.net.

He has worked with online education since he designed NKI's first Learning Management System in 1986 and published many books, reports and articles about the topic. Many of his publications and presentations are available at his personal homepage at http://home.nki.no/morten.

His book Online Education and Learning Management Systems is available via http://www.studymentor.com/.

Cooperative Learning

In the Instructional Stategies Online page we find an introduction to Cooperative Learning as a key strategy to support students learning to value and respect one another, and educators understanding the practical knowledge needed to assure the success of group work (cooperative learning).
There are several different perceptions of the meaning of "cooperative":
- an instructional strategy that simultaneously addresses academic and social skill learning by students
- is one way of providing students with a well defined framework from which to learn from each other
- it's a team approach where the success of the group depends upon everyone pulling his or her weight
- can take place in a variety of circumstances:. brainstorming and tutorial groups, etc.
I think that if online learning process embrace academic knowledgments and personal characteristics of students, the cooperative strategy has a prominent place in the process. Having some time to explore the site, we can see that "students who have opportunities to work collaboratively, learn faster and more efficiently, have greater retention, and feel more positive about the learning experience."
As to guide us about this interactive method, the site page focuses in the following main topics:
- What is Cooperative Learning?
- What is its purpose?
- How can I do it?
- Assessment and Evaluation Considerations
The essential elements of Cooperative Learning are:
- Positive Interdependence
- Face-To-Face Interaction
- Individual Accountability
- Social Skills
- Group Processing
(retrieved October, 18, 2009)


Ferramentas digitais úteis

As ferramentas Google Reader e Delicious (utilização gratuita) têm sido muito úteis na organização dos meus estudos, ao longo dos últimos meses.
Através do Google Reader é possível seguir as notícias gerais ou de amigos de modo rápido e fácil, porque na página principal pode visualizar-se o resumo de todas as ligações (portais, blogs, wikis, etc.), ainda não lidos.
Algumas das funções desta ferramenta, entre outros fins, permitem adicionar novos feeds usando a própria busca interna do Google Reader, os novos posts assinados ficam destacados no ecrã e pode classificar-se a lista de subscrições por data ou relevância.
O Delicious oferece um serviço online que permite adicionar e pesquisar bookmarks sobre qualquer assunto, servindo como arquivo de sites preferidos que são acedidos a qualquer momento e lugar. É colocado o link da página oficial do serviço e criada uma etiqueta (tag), para adicionar páginas aos favoritos. Pode partilhar-se os bookmarks com os amigos e visualizar os favoritos públicos de vários membros da comunidade em que participamos.
Vale a pena conhecê-los... enfim, usá-los!


Blended Learning

Preparei um trabalho sobre o Blended Learning, com o título "Uso educativo do chat e do email no ensino presencial".

O artigo reflecte o uso das novas tecnologias de comunicação mediada por computador, principalmente o email e o chat, na educação presencial (tradicional) como complemento do processo de ensino-aprendizagem, destacando o papel do professor como mediador e o aluno como participante na construção do conhecimento. Nesse sentido, o artigo aborda a caracterização de ambientes virtuais, algumas das novas concepções de aprendizagem e a formação necessária do professor enquanto mediador da integração da tecnologia inovadora (comunicação mediada por computador) num contexto educativo em Blended Learning. [ver dossier aqui]


O meu primeiro vídeo

Tenho tido grande satisfação em descobrir as ferramentas digitas que o Mestrado me tem revelado, na realização das várias actividades. Neste momento, foi o vídeo. Útilizei fotografias obtidas no Second Life e criei uma curta metragem...
Eis então o meu primeiro vídeo:


Second Life

Através do mestrado que frequento, conheci um mundo virtual muito interessante, o Second Life, onde criei um avatar que representa ali a minha pessoa. Chama-se mgfreitas Barcelos.
Na minha opinião, o SL é uma óptima ferramenta de ensino on-line que espero vir a dominar razoavelmente. Estou ainda a dar os primeiros passos, mas foi fácil convencer-me das suas variadas funcionalidades pedagógicas e sociais.

Deixo aqui o convite para explorarem esse mundo... Boa viagem!

Teoria da Distância Transaccional

Fiz parte de um grupo que elaborou um dossier [ver aqui] sobre a Teoria da Distância Transaccional de Michael Moore. Fiquei muito interessado pelo pensamento deste investigador, porque é importante reflectir sobre as características pedagógicas da relação entre professor-aluno. Enquanto professor, estarei assim mais habilitado para participar num ensino eficiente e produtivo.


O que é para mim o Ensino a Distância (EaD)?

Considero que o Ensino a Distância (EaD) é a transformação do ambiente tradicional, em que os professores e os alunos têm uma hora e um local para se encontrarem, num ambiente educacional em que os alunos e os professores se encontram em locais e horários diferentes. Além disso, este último ambiente promove uma metodologia diferenciada, concedendo o lugar central à autonomia do aluno, à comunicação bidireccional entre professores e alunos e aos recursos tecnológicos actuais.

A educação a distância é reconhecida, nos dias de hoje (longe já da troca de correspondência), como a forma de atendimento a um grande número de alunos e por um custo muito mais razoável do que o ensino presencial, apesar de a EaD não ser a solução para os problemas educacionais da sociedade actual. Esta metodologia, que é actualmente uma combinação entre o ensino e a tecnologia, não se esgota nas ferramentas tecnológicas. São criados novos veículos de comunicação, por exemplo as TIC, colocados à disposição de alunos e professores numa interactividade segura, de forma a reduzir distâncias, e conteúdos específicos que assegurem a aprendizagem do educando, aos quais se acede através de uma plataforma online sob a responsabilidade de uma escola ou universidade ou ainda outra entidade educativa. O material didáctico é preparado por especialistas e procura-se desenvolver no aluno hábitos e atitudes de estudo, sem a presença física do professor, levando-o a tornar-se num autodidacta. Por sua vez, a comunicação é um elemento chave neste novo processo educativo, considerando que não há educação sem comunicação. Para mim, o diálogo entre professor e aluno revelam-se indispensáveis, não podendo ser concebido como um acto mecânico. Ou seja, o uso das tecnologias ou um excelente plano de curso não bastam para resolver os problemas que se apresentam durante o processo educativo.

A metodologia em EaD deve, na minha opinião, permitir a aquisição do conhecimento acessível a todos, através de uma comunicação activa que tenha no material didáctico a ferramenta básica para a aprendizagem, material que deve ser, por natureza, explícito, motivador e variado. A garantia de um equilíbrio entre esta metodologia e o material didáctico cabe ao tutor (professor virtual), cuja função é não só produzir o material didáctico e gerir os recursos didácticos, como também avaliar o desempenho dos alunos, proporcionando-lhe um apoio contínuo que contribua para a obtenção de bons resultados.

A nova concepção de educação aqui referida não leva a que os professores sejam substituídos pelas novas tecnologias, apenas terão funções diferentes das que tinham ou têm hoje em dia. Os respectivos currículos respeitam as necessidades dos alunos e as actividades lectivas são desenvolvidas para atender a essas necessidades. Julgo que a cooperação entre as partes envolvidas é fundamental para o sucesso dos cursos ou projectos de ensino, tendo em conta que se vive numa época em que a aprendizagem independente é a grande estratégia da educação.

Finalmente, gostava de reflectir um pouco na qualidade de e-estudante. Assim, a minha posição quanto às relações que se estabelecem online com os tutores é que estas sejam boas, esperando que os tutores teçam elogios à minha actuação, sejam rápidos em responder às mensagens e não dêem excessiva preocupação à sua forma em detrimento do conteúdo. Penso que a resposta instantânea e assertiva por parte do tutor acaba por ser importante no mundo virtual de ensino, pois o aluno precisa de receber um feedback constante, caso contrário, o aluno pode ficar insatisfeito com a prática tutorial e isso reflectir-se-á no seu desempenho. Claro que o aluno a que me refiro não pode ser passivo, dependente do modelo presencial, estando sempre à espera que o tutor resolva todos os seus problemas, sem que tentem obter as informações por si mesmos.

Em conclusão, o ensino a distância com uso da tecnologia, aqui em questão, transformou o espaço e lugar do processo de ensino-aprendizagem, diversificou as formas de interacção comunicativa e abriu uma via de novas oportunidades de acesso ao conhecimento, mesmo ao alto nível de formação académica. Embora esta nova forma de relacionamento entre alunos e professores devam muito à tecnologia, esta não é motivo suficiente para garantir a eficiência e a qualidade do ensino.


Personalidade II - EaD

Fredric Michael Litto, norte-americano, Professor da Universidade de São Paulo desde 1971, especialista na Educação a Distância, presidente da Associação Brasileira de Educação a Distância (ABED) e coordenador científico da Escola do Futuro. [Ver Curriculum Vitae]
"O mundo mudou, a escola não mudou. A escola tem que mudar", alerta Fredric Michael Litto, professor que há muitos anos vem promovendo cursos de capacitação profissional para professores e educadores, vem recomendando mais autonomia para as escolas e os professores, mais acção dos alunos na aprendizagem, vem fazendo uma apaixonada defesa das novas tecnologias para melhorar a educação, vem criando novos conteúdos para o professores e definindo novas parcerias entre a universidade, a sociedade civil, escolas e diferentes esferas do governo, envolvendo as novas tecnologias. "Isso não significa dispensar o professor", afirma.
Na opinião deste especialista, ao contrário de um transmissor de conhecimentos para o aluno, o professor tem hoje a tarefa de organizar actividades que façam com que os alunos aprendam. "Dentro de uma filosofia construtivista, que faz com que os alunos realizem projectos de biologia, química, história, português, e vão construindo tijolo por tijolo o edifício de seu conhecimento individual", explica.
E o que este Professor pensa do EaD? Distanciando este ensino do E-learning, refere que “o EaD é algo muito maior, um guarda-sol que abriga a todos. O E-learning é apenas um componente disso tudo, mais recente. O EaD no Brasil é bem mais antiga. Ela foi alta na década de 40, com o Instituto Monitor, a Fundação Padre Landell de Moura, a Roquete Pinto, alguns pioneiros que surgiram com a ideia, depois ficou um pouco quieto e cresceu de novo no final dos 60 e nos 70.”
Quando o curso é ministrado online, esclarece, tem de ser feita toda uma adaptação, porque não se trata de comunicação unidireccional, antes pelo contrário, promove-se a interactividade. Neste caso, embora o professor continue a ser importante, este especialista defende que á apenas o arquitecto do curso, aquele que configura o curso, mas, uma vez o curso começado, tudo muda. O “falar” do professor fica em segundo plano. Reside aqui a ideia chave do pensamento de Fredric Litto, para quem a grande aprendizagem ocorre na interactividade, na discussão online entre alunos.
As pesquisas têm mostrado que a aprendizagem dos alunos é muito mais forte e duradoura se os alunos têm muita interactividade entre eles para solucionar problemas, formação de equipas e trabalho em conjunto. A internet permite isso, porque oferece condições de uma aprendizagem muito mais rica, mais eficaz. Por outro lado, há a possibilidade de alcançar um maior número de alunos, incluindo pessoas que têm necessidades especiais: cegos, surdos, indivíduos com mobilidade reduzida ou que têm que ficar em casa cuidando de familiares. Como defende este especialista, graças ao EaD, pode levar-se o conhecimento e a certificação até a casa dessas pessoas. Lembra que o Brasil tem quase 200 milhões de habitantes, 10% são 20 milhões de pessoas que têm essas dificuldades nas suas vidas pessoais e que podem receber formação através das novas tecnologias, ou seja, trata-se do processo de EaD.
Seria bom que os estabelecimentos de ensino acompanhassem tão rápido as mudanças de época como, por exemplo, uma criança contemporânea. Fredric Litto lembra que a criança hoje sabe, quase instantaneamente, usar o controlo remoto, o joystick para jogos e, claro, aventura-se durante horas seguidas ao computador. Está acostumada a um mundo interactivo: se não gosta do canal, muda; a criança vê a escola sob este olhar, ou seja, quando não se interessa pelo que o professor diz, apetece-lhe (mas não pode) fazer ‘clic', mudar de professor. Este novo comportamento deve ser tido em conta no mundo da educação e, segundo este especialista, temos que convencer os poderes políticos a investir em novas tecnologias nas escolas a fim de melhorar a educação. Depois de ser dado este passo, há que incentivar a interactividade, porque é determinante no sucesso da aprendizagem. No Canadá, certas pesquisas mostram que os cursos universitários online, quando bem feitos, promovem uma aprendizagem melhor do que os cursos face-a-face, na sala com o professor.
Segundo o Professor, o ensino a distância não é apenas fazer um curso à distância, é saber como usar recursos na internet para fazer o seu trabalho. O estabelecimento de ensino onde trabalha, a Escola do Futuro, oferece um óptimo recurso online, a toda a hora e sem outros custos, a Biblioteca Virtual do Estudante Brasileiro (www.bibvirt.futuro.usp.br) que alberga toda a literatura brasileira, documentos, imagens, sons, fauna e flora. A importância deste recurso gratuito reflecte-se no número diário de utilizadores: 6 mil, sendo a maioria estudantes. Este especialista chama a atenção para o facto de o utilizador dos recursos virtuais desta natureza ter de receber antes a orientação de um professor para que não se disperse. Nesse sentido, Fredric Litto promoveu a criação do site Webquest, tecnologia que orienta o aluno, que apresenta uma pequena estrutura para pesquisas na internet.
De facto, com orientação, o aluno aprende, pensa mais claramente, evitando assim confrontar-se com um excesso de informação. É preciso que o aluno desenvolva a habilidade para a pesquisa pertinente de informação na hora em que precisa. Como diz Fredric Litto, “filtrar informação para saber a diferença entre joio e trigo”.
Em conclusão, os estudos fruto de um trabalho longo e continuado deste especialista, quer no Brasil quer noutros cantos do planeta, a favor do EaD contribuíram muito para a respeitabilidade e a legitimidade no meio científico e académico do tipo de ensino aqui em questão. Não é uma coisa menor, que não mereça interesse científico, antes pelo contrário. A propósito, a instituição que Fredric Litto preside (ABED) enriqueceu o mundo académico com uma revista científica, em que são publicados artigos em português, espanhol e inglês. Uma revista científica eleva o nível do discurso sobre EaD e deixa muito claro que ela é algo nobre dentro da perspectiva académica.


Personalidade I - EaD

Indico uma das figuras que escolhi:
Michael G. Moore, Professor de Educação na Universidade do Estado da Pensilvânia, EUA, autor de obras sobre educação a distância.

Através da história do EaD, o conceito de “distância” tem sido alvo de estudo por parte de Michael Moore (Learner Autonomy: the second dimension of independent learning,1972; Toward a theory of independent learning and teaching, 1973; On a Theory of independent study, 1977). Posteriormente, num artigo publicado em D. Keegan (Theoretical Principles of Distance Education, 1993), este Professor lança a Teoria da Distância Transaccional.
São identificadas três formas de interacção:
1. A interacção aluni/conteúdo: processo de interacção intelectual com o conteúdo.
2. A interacção aluno/instrutor: diálogo que existe entre o instrutor e o aluno, em que o instrutor facilita e orienta os alunos na construção do seu conhecimento.
3. A interacção aluno/alunos: diálogo entre aluno e colegas (partilha e aprendizagem construtiva).

Michael Moore utiliza este conceito para representar a dinâmica entre a estrutura dos programas em EaD, o diálogo (professor-tutor-aluno), mass media e a autonomia do aluno no processo de ensino-aprendizagem a distância: “a extensão do diálogo e a flexibilidade da estrutura variam de programa para programa. É essa variação que dá a um programa maior ou menor distância transaccional que um outro [...] Em programas mais distantes, onde menos ou pouco diálogo é possível ou permitido, os materiais didácticos são fortemente estruturados de modo a fornecer toda a orientação [...] Por conseguinte, em programas muito distantes, os alunos precisam de responsabilizar-se em julgar e tomar decisões acerca das estratégias de estudo.” (Theoretical Principles of Distance Education, 1993).
Entende-se assim que quanto maior for a distância transaccional, mais o aluno exercerá essa autonomia. Este especialista estabelece a correlação entre “distância transaccional” de programas em EaD e a autonomia do aluno: quanto mais estruturado menos diálogo ou nenhum diálogo. Trata-se, inicialmente, de uma teoria em que o processo de ensino e aprendizagem está centrado no estudante e a educação é entendida como processo de carácter fundamentalmente individualizado, em que os adultos têm capacidade para decidir sobre sua própria aprendizagem e a maneira de
A distância transaccional varia sempre da forma como cada curso está organizado, já que aulas sem discussão serão sempre caracterizadas por uma longa distância transaccional (elevada estrutura, diálogo baixo), enquanto que, quando existem as discussões síncronas há pequena distância transaccional (baixa estrutura, elevado diálogo). Por isso, ensinar e estudar a distância é considerado de antemão como excepcional, não comparável ao estudo face-a-face e, muitas vezes, também como especialmente difícil... Pelo facto de se considerar a distância em relação aos estudantes como um deficit e a proximidade física, pelo contrário, como desejável e necessária, já as primeiras tentativas de estabelecer princípios didácticos específicos para o ensino a distância procuravam encontrar meios e caminhos para superar, reduzir, amenizar ou até mesmo anular a distância física.
Em conclusão, Michael Moore e a sua Teoria da Distância Transaccional demonstram que, em Educação, a distância não tem sentido estritamente físico/geográfico, mas fundamentalmente relacional, afectivo, comunicacional. Esta distância ou proximidade transaccional é que tem importância pedagógica. Ela não depende da proximidade física, antes pelo contrário. A Teoria da Distância Transaccional de Michael Moore ensina-nos que, mais que um obstáculo a ser superado, a distância física deve ser percebida como uma oportunidade a ser positivamente explorada e aproveitada.